The other day I was driving from Amherst, Ma to Northampton, Ma. when I noticed two young men hitchhiking along a busy highway, each with a very large backpack. I thought to myself, "There is no way anyone is going to stop for these guys." So, I decided to pick them up and found myself in the company of two of the most earnest and devout young men I have ever met. Don't misunderstand me...when I say "devout" I don't mean they were religious, I mean they were totally surrendered to their Lord. Unfortunately, because of my many years in the company of the god of pleasure (drugs, alcohol, etc.) my shredded memory was unable to file their names in the proper folder. But I will never forget the burning in my heart as I listened to them.
They belonged to a group of believers in Plymouth, Ma. called "The Community" or Twelve Tribes. A group of people who have dedicated themselves to living their lives as closely to first century life as possible. With no money and no resources beyond what they carried on their backs, these young men and others set out in pairs to meet people and share the love of God.
I found myself so intrigued by them that when we got to Northampton I pulled my truck over to the side of the road and we ended up sitting on the tailgate and talking for another 1/2 hour. When I left them(with a grateful heart and a $20 bill for dinner) I was eager to get home and on the internet so I could discover all I could about this group. What I learned amazed me as I came to realize just how courageous these young men were.
They constantly live under the shadow of the accusation: 'CULT!" And why? Because they live for Yeshua(Jesus) and Yeshua alone! They live a life dedicated to Him and to each other. Every dime they make they give back to the community...fully and joyfully. They reject the things of the world and desire to possess nothing except the love of God which they give away at every possible opportunity.
The families and children of this community are constantly under scrutiny from local authorities and other church "communities". They have been raided, arrested and fined for alleged child abuse and violations of child labor laws. And what were these violations and abuses? The children were expected to do chores...Oh My! That's right...thank goodness the government was there to "protect" these children from pushing a wheelbarrow or sweeping a floor.
This is how far we have fallen as a culture. To live a life dedicated completely to God and surrendered to His will is suspect. And to expect a child to do basic chores for the good of the family and basic order of the household is considered abuse. I admire these young men and the goals of their community. Undoubtedly, there are those who would find this way of living over-the-top and uncomfortable, but is that a good enough reason to attack or dismiss them? In a culture where church life has been reduced to one hour of one day a week, they live every day worshiping their Lord and taking every opportunity to live for and love one another. In a culture where most children have a television for a Mother and a computer screen for a Father, their children learn to live, love and labor alongside each other, their parents and other adults who love them.
It's time for believers to wake up! We give 10%(if that) of our time, our treasure and our talent and pat ourselves on the back for this paltry offering. These young men and their brothers and sisters give all and are constantly seeking ways to give more.
The truth is that these young men and their community hold up a mirror for all of us...all of us who claim we love the Lord. We can knock the mirror out of their hands and cry. "CULT"! Or we can examine the reflection staring back at us and ask ourselves one question, "Does this person in the mirror look anything like Jesus?" If it doesn't then maybe it's time to stop pointing at others and start examining ourselves.
I'm not saying that I'm ready to run off and join twelve tribes or any other Christian community. But when I remember talking with these young men I feel like the disciples along the road to Emmaus. Remembering talking with Jesus they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" I'm not saying these young men were some kind of personification of Jesus, but they did give me "Holy Heartburn". And when I remember their devotion, their joy and their commitment...even at the ripe old age of 59 I can truly say: When I grow up I want to be just like them!